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Owen Thompson

He’s the creative mind behind some of the most stunning venue designs on the Gold Coast; think Baked at Ancora, Project Tokyo and Double Barrel Kitchen to name a few.

We sat down for a chat with Owen Thompson about his latest project Anekawa in Mudgeeraba and his creation for next years’ Swell Sculpture Festival.

How long have you been a Gold Coast local?
I moved from the UK in 2009 to Brisbane and was there for a few months before I headed down to the Gold Coast to visit a friend. He took me to Burleigh Headland and from that moment I told him I was moving in. Ten years later, I’m still here and loving every day.

What do you love most about living here?
There are so many wonderful things about living on the Gold Coast; it’s really quite hard to pick one. I guess the most enjoyable thing for me is that it is so grounding; with my feet in the sand, my eyes to the sky, topped with the most amazing hinterland walks, it connects people and place unlike anywhere I’ve ever been.

Tell us about how your design career came about…
I come from a building background and whilst doing fun side-projects such as reception counters and custom furniture I was lucky enough to be asked to work with Mitch and Nerissa McClusky on their project, Etsu Izakaya. From that experience my work took a different path as I realised my passion was to design and create unique spaces.

From where do you find the inspiration for your unique work?
My inspiration is gathered from many different sources; images, locations, restaurants etc. I feel the most important part is the correlation between senses and how I make these senses feel and the way in which I implement them into each design.

Tell us about your latest project, Anekawa…
Anekawa was a really beautiful experience for all involved. I worked alongside our client, finding the venue and creating from within that space. It is small and intimate, working with raw materials such as blue stone tiles for table tops, cypress timber, dark textured paint and mustard curtains, I wanted to create a space that encompassed the whole dining experience.

You work with a lot of Japanese venues, what’s the reason for this?
After gaining experience working in a particular genre of restaurants, you start to get a name for yourself in that genre however, I love creating a broad spectrum of spaces. This is reflected in my work on Baked at Ancora in Tweed Heads, Fuel Bakehouse in Cabarita, Double Barrel Kitchen and Two Wise Fish in Mermaid Waters.

What’s the plan for 2020 for you and the business?
To simply keep creating as much as possible and to give people spaces in which to connect. As a business, we are looking to expand to other cities around Australia but still keeping the Gold Coast as our most important place in which to create. On a personal level, I am moving more into the design and creation of sculptures. I collaborated with Real Space Creative and entered Swell Sculpture Festival last year, and we’re already working on our next submission for this years festival.

Tell us your favourites on the Coast…
Coffee spot: Commune Espresso, The Nook and Hide & Seek
Cafe for breakfast: Commune Espresso, Paddock Bakery and Elk Espresso
Restaurant for dinner: Rick Shores, Etsu, Project Tokyo, Paper Daisy, Oi Izakaya, Anekawa, Muso Ramen.
How does your weekend usually look? My weekends are pretty simplistic, but perfect. A swim at the beach or Talle creek with the family, breakfast at one of our favourite spots, dinner with friends and studio time working on another passion of mine which is music production. All in all, a great life thanks to the Gold Coast.

Burleigh Heads scores an epic new Japanese eatery

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, Japanese food is one of life’s greatest pleasures. So when a new, perfectly curated eatery bringing the traditional tastes of Japan to Burleigh Heads opens up, we are obviously all about it.

The newbie, Oi Izakaya can be found in the little alleyway off James Street where the Mexi-goodness that is Hail Mary also resides.

It’s the work of local lads Troy Olsen and Stephen Thompson who, along with renowned Gold Coast design genius OJ Thompson (of Ally Chow and Etsu fame), have created something the Gold Coast is going to absolutely love.

The newbie is a low-lit, moody space reminiscent of back alley, Tokyo-style Izakayas with all burnt wood paneling, dark intimate corners and an open-style kitchen, so you can watch the magic unfold.

The bar, at one end fits snugly into the corner and is jam-packed with an impressive array of whisky’s (love you), sake and Japanese beers. Tiny samurai fight for attention on one wall, while a (really quite magical) golden orb shines out from another.

The vibe is the perfect combination of old school Japanese and modern sophistication and we’re big fans.

Menu-wise the eats are refined and authentic, infusing mind-blowing flavours into dishes you’ll never want to stop eating.

To start, sashimi, always. The freshest of tuna and salmon for your tasting pleasure. But also Edamame Cheese Chips, a thing we have never before had the pleasure of sampling but will now order at any and every opportunity. Don’t ask, just order.

The Squashed Cucumber is not only one of the great dish names, it is a great dish. Basically it’s cucumber in plum sauce but the flavours defy that overly simplistic description. Eat it.

Oi Izakaya also have a Sushi Burger on the menu and yes it is indeed stacked like your run-of-the-mill burger but made with sushi. Genius and so very tasty.

Of course, the menus’ pièce de résistance is Okonomiyaki, the dish that made Troy and Stephen fall in love with Japanese eats and the reason we now get to spend all our time at Oi Izakaya.

If you’ve not yet had the pleasure Okonomiyaki is made up of many things including egg, cabbage, flour, Japanese spices and your choice of meat. The dish we sampled was Hiroshima-style (with noodles) and it was the very best variety we’ve ever tasted.

We ate the entire thing and you should order it and subsequently be impressed by how good we are at eating.

To drink, we suggest getting involved in one of the MANY Japanese whisky’s on offer but if straight up isn’t your thing, the Brown Rice Old Fashioned is as good as it gets.

Oi Izakaya

All in all, Oi Izakaya is quite a treat and the perfect addition to Burleigh’s foodie scene and we suggest you get down there at the earliest available opportunity and give the boys some love.

And if you need someone to mentor you in the art of whisky drinking, you know where to find us.

LOCATION: Shop 4-6, 30 James Street, Burleigh Heads
HOURS: Wednesday and Thursday 4.30pm until late, Friday to Sunday 12pm until late

Words and photos by Kirra Smith

Mermaid Waters welcomes a new, must-try Japanese eatery

Here we are again to discuss a few of our absolute favourite things –you guessed it – exceptional eats and interiors we would like to replicate in our own homes immediately thank you very much.

The latest combination of the two and our most recent eatery crush, can be found in a little place we (and everyone else) like to call Mermaid Waters, where many a great little venue lives and a spot we will now be visiting a LOT more regularly.

It’s called Project Tokyo and it’s an intimate space found in the precinct where Lucky Bao and Nude Sisters Kitchen also reside, bringing the aforementioned exceptional eats and interiors, Japanese-style.

It’s the work of Franz and Geoff, a hospitality guru and chef who have long wanted to open a venue of this variety and we’re pretty happy they did.

The interior is the work of one OJ Thompson, the genius behind Oi Izakaya, Goto Restaurant in Southport and Double Barrel Kitchen (to name a few). It’s made up of moody blues and natural wood with beautiful, authentic artwork painted onto the walls and flags marking the entrance.

It’s pared back, perfectly put together and exactly the type of space we Gold Coasters love.

Menu-wise you can expect modern Japanese dishes from snacks and starters including the always-loveable Edamame, Lotus Root chips and tasty salads to signature dishes and some absolute stunners off the grill.

The Fried Lotus Chips with Miso Kingfish and Salmon Tataki were a standout and one of Chef Misa’s creations so don’t miss out on that one.

We of course, recommend all of the sashimi – Seared Tuna, Kingfish and Seared Salmon, fresh and delicious, yes please. Next up, the Gyoza is some of the best we’ve sampled, so definitely choose a few of those too.

The Duck Harumake was a standout, a crispy little package filled with duck, carrot and wombok and served with sticky Hoi Sin sauce. Loved it.

There’s also sushi, some very delicious tempura dishes, chicken yakitori (skewers) and grilled scallops you’ll definitely want to taste.

For dessert don’t go past the Chocolate Fondant with Green Tea ice cream, it’s next-level.

In conclusion, you should probably try everything and maybe go back the next night to do it all again.

Project Tokyo is that good.

LOCATION: 90 Markeri St, Mermaid Waters
HOURS: Open for dinner Wednesday to Monday and lunch Saturday and Sunday

Words and photos by Kirra Smith

Nook Espresso

It’s no secret that coffee is the magical elixir that ensures a long and happy life and without it, we would really have no reason to get up in the morning and without a reason to get up in the morning we’d have no brunch squad, no reason to wear our activewear, no pics to upload to Instagram, no nothing friends.

So you see, life giving elixir. The reason for that ramble is this; Nook Espresso, who we believe may be the very ones who started the Gold Coast’s coffee culture uprising have a sparkly new space in Burleigh Heads and we are here to discuss it.

Hopefully you’ve already sampled the smooth, perfectly caffeinated brews the crew at Nook are pumping out on the daily but if not, you’re really missing out.

The new space can be found at Stockland Burleigh Heads, where the old space also lived, but with a sparkly new lease on life that you’re going to want to check out the next time you’re in need of a cuppa (so tomorrow).

Found at the front of the centre, looking out over a plant-filled seating area where a sweet new pizza place (by the same crew) will soon open, Nook is all glossy white tiles and their signature aqua accents offset by a few copper feature pieces.

It all comes together with a fresh, feel-good vibe perfectly befitting of the 11 year old biz. Which is due, in large part to owners Marcus Wilkins and Paola Pearse who are two of the chattiest, always-stoked-to-see-you folks around.

Not to mention everyone else who whips up tasty brews behind both the Stocklands Nook counter and the one on the beach at Burleigh Heads. Legends the lot of them.

The beans are Byron Bay locals, Nook has been using the same delicious blend for all these years and that is because it is the goods. Big fans.

Eats-wise, you may indulge in simple but delicious brunch-style takeaway treats like ham and cheese croissants (perfect for when you drank three whiskey’s the night before while watching THAT GoT episode – you feel?) plus Acai bowls, raisin toast, Bircher muesli, banana bread, all the good things.

There are also cold-pressed juices, made fresh in-house, smoothies and milkshakes (HOW GOOD ARE MILKSHAKES), in case coffee is not your thing. Poor you.

So, if a smiling face and (more importantly) a life-giving elixir in a shiny new Burleigh space is something you need in your life, pop down to say g’day to the good people at Nook Espresso.

We’ll probably also be there. Every day, forever.

Love you coffee.

LOCATION: Stockland Burleigh Heads, West Burleigh Rd, Burleigh Heads
HOURS: 6am until 4.30pm

Words and photos by Kirra Smith

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